EU migrants make up 20% of the Northern Irish farm workforce, according to new research by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) .
The research also found that horticultural farms were most likely to employ migrant workers. The data revealed that 1,404 non-seasonal and seasonal workers from outside the UK and Ireland were employed on Northern Irish farms.
Almost all farming businesses surveyed said migrant labor was important to their business, with the majority saying production would be reduced as a result of restrictions on migrant workers. As many as 32% of migrant workers originated from Bulgaria, while Polish and Lithuanian farm workers were found to make up 28% and 16% respectively.
As many as 16% of farmers said they didn’t know what they would do if migration became more heavily restricted, a further 8% replied with ‘other’ when asked how they would respond to restrictions. Two fifths of those surveyed said the restrictions would result in the closure of their business.
The release of the survey coincided with prime minister Theresa May’s announcement that the UK will end freedom of movement when Brexit is completed.